A lobbyist for students

I value parents, kitchen tables and teachers. I am a lobbyist for students.


At the end of this intro is a rewrite, edited down in the neighborhood of a couple hundred words, of this original post. This shorter version appeared in the Cortland Standard on April 24th (page 6). Most important to me is that news media of all formats step up and begin to acknowledge that the “opt out” movement is more than a kerfuffle between a suddenly interested and active teachers’ union and an unpopular and self-interested governor. It is also more than helicopter parents that just don’t understand how good tests are for their children. While much is heard from leaders promoting value for struggling students in underfunded schools via tests, data and a building full of frightened and sad professional educators…many parents are now seeing the inconsistency, evasiveness, and dishonesty in leadership. “Opting out” is not just a fashionable trend. It was not driven by teachers afraid of…

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“One Newark” Exemplifies the Shock Doctrine: Public Institutions Seized from the Powerless

Shock Doctrine—the imposition of school choice, public school closures, expansion of charters, and attacks on unionized teachers—on a community whose citizens lack power.


This blog will take a week off after today.  Look for the next post on Tuesday, May 5.

In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes the takeover of the New Orleans schools in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina as a grand experiment perpetrated by policy makers on a city so vulnerable nobody could protect the public assets that should have been rescued.  Klein concludes, “I call these orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities, “disaster capitalism.” (The Shock Doctrine, p. 6)

When we think about the Shock Doctrine applied to education, New Orleans—where the schools were charterized and all the teachers fired—is the example that comes to mind, but our test-and-punish system under the No Child Left Behind Act has branded the schools in our poorest cities as “failures” and…

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Forgetting to Address the Cause of Educational Injustice

“…in 23 states, state and local governments are together spending less per pupil in the poorest school districts than they are in the most affluent school districts”


Teachers’ unions are criticized all the time for putting the needs of teachers first. Far-right astro-turf organizations like Students First and Stand for Children have made sharing this myth their raison-d’etre.  But in my long work as an advocate for justice in public education policy at the federal level, I discovered again and again and again that the myth isn’t true.  Teachers’ unions work assiduously for laws that help children; the teachers who belong to the teachers’ unions fund these organizations well enough that they hire expert policy analysts; and the teachers’ unions do more than almost any other organization to reach out to the broader community on behalf of public schools.  I have come to believe that far-right ideologues trash teachers’ unions because those same ideologues believe in cutting taxes, and they want cheap labor in the classroom because their persistent tax slashing makes it impossible to afford…

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Some Details on the Senate-proposed ESEA Reauthorization


deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

On April 7, 2015, the Senate education committee announced the following as part of a press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 7 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced a bipartisan agreement on fixing “No Child Left Behind.” They scheduled committee action on their agreement and any amendments to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14.

The result of the Lamar-Murray collaboration on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization (the latest version of which is renamed No Child Left Behind) is this 600-page document entitled, The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

I read the first 136 pages of the act, which I refer to below as the Alexander-Murray reauthorization.

I am aware that when the document goes before the Senate education committee, it could well be amended. But for now, in this post, I offer my observations on key…

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Texas: How to Buy Education Policy

It’s only money, honey!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Here is a pathetic contrast that says a whole lot about the politics of education, not only in Texas but across the nation. The latest ethics report in Texas shows that “Texans for Education Reform,” a spinoff of Democrats for Education Reform, has hired 15 lobbyists to work the legislature this session. Most will be paid between $50,000-100,000, some less, some more. One will be paid between $150,000-200,000. This group would not call itself “Democrats for Education Reform” in Texas, because the Democratic Party is out of favor; the constituency this group appeals to would not want to be affiliated with any organization that called itself “Democrats.” The name may be helpful in fooling people in liberal states, but it would be a stigma in Texas.

Here is the contrast: the main anti-testing group is led by parents. It is called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (known to fans…

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Concern for Equity Merely Buried in New Darling-Hammond Policy Brief: But It’s Still There

Equity Concerns are Critical!


Congress is talking about reauthorizing the federal testing law—the law whose recent version we call No Child Left Behind (NCLB)  but that originated in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), passed as part of the War on Poverty.  The debate in Congress seems to be slowly falling apart because of deep partisan disagreement about the role of the federal government in education policy. The Congressional debate does, however, provide an important opportunity to explore some of the issues in the law as it stands currently.

Here are two quotes that encapsulate two of my greatest concerns.  The first is from Gary Orfield, the political scientist and demographer who leads the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.  In a forward to a 2009 Civil Rights Project analysis of No Child Left Behind, Orfield worried that, “the law raises the pressure for schools, by themselves, to produce equal outcomes…

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Boots on the Ground

#ImmigrantJustice #CourageousJournalists

Views from Alongside a Border

human traffickingThe auditorium was packed at last week’s Human Trafficking Conference at South Texas College in McAllen, Texas. Most of the audience were students; most of the presentations were by academics.

The PowerPoint presentations and the discourses tended to be long on statistics. While the earnest professors kept the jargon to a minimum, the language shortcuts did little to soften the horrible insight that slavery is doing better than ever, even in the twenty-first century.

The blows to the soul sharpened, however, when the journalists took the podium. First up was Dawn Paley, a Canadian working for the past ten years in Mexico. She had just published Drug War Capitalism, a book in which she meticulously lays out a damning indictment of how all of us, intentionally or not, have been tied into a massive scheme that brings banks, politicians, arms’ dealers and mining concerns into a celebration of plunder.

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